LAKEVIEW — A new children’s book written by the owner of BabyDolls Boutique on the Southport Corridor takes readers on an adventure through Chicago, making stops at many of its landmarks.
“Chicago Loves Me” tells the story of a baby boy who travels across the city with his mother and imaginary friend, Penelope. It’s written by Vanessa Rodriguez, owner of BabyDolls Boutique, a store at 3727 N. Southport Ave. selling custom-made children’s clothing and jewelry for adults.
The boy starts at Wrigley Field — just a few blocks from where Rodriguez grew up — and stops at many of Chicago’s iconic spots, like the Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Park and Buckingham Fountain.
“The baby goes on this adventure and is like, ‘Chicago loves me, mommy, because it takes me to all these amazing, wonderful places,'” Rodriguez said. “Along the way, you get to appreciate that this city is so beautiful and filled with so much art and architecture, but you just have to look around to see it.”
Rodriguez hopes readers learn something about Chicago and that the book can dispel negative stereotypes about the city, she said.
“There’s a lot of good that happens in this city, so that’s what I want the book to portray,” Rodriguez said. “I want people to know Chicago is amazing because we have all these beautiful attractions and that you can raise a healthy, happy family here.”
“Chicago Loves Me” will be the first in a series of books touring major cities, Rodriguez said.
The book is illustrated by Lauren Schultz, a long-time graphic designer for Rodriguez’s store.
“I went to Lauren and was like, ‘I’m going to write a book,’ and she was so supportive, she said, ‘Do it! I’m going to illustrate it,'” Rodriguez said. “Then she made these beautiful illustrations for this baby’s entire adventure.”
Fans of the book can also buy stuffed animals inspired by the boy’s imaginary friend, Chicago-themed teethers and hats that appear in the story, and onesies with the “Chicago Loves Me” artwork on it.
“I hope this book becomes a family favorite in their little libraries at home,” Rodriguez said.
The book is the latest passion project from Rodriguez, who opened BabyDolls Boutique in 2007 and launched her own children’s clothing line, pink & blue are the new black, shortly after.
Pink & blue uses designer fabrics to create fashionable outfits for infants and babies, Rodriguez said.
“These are the kind of pieces that my clients come in and say they’ll put it in a box for their next baby,” Rodriguez said. “Or their keepsake pieces that they might want to pass down to another baby they love. That is so special to me.”
“It’s an exciting opportunity for me to get to meet my first audience,” Rodriguez said. “And everything I do is super personalized, so I want to write dedications if people want me to sign the book off to a baby or something.”
BabyDolls Boutique is open 11a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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